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on March 11, 2001
First of all, the title: hold your tongue when you say it. (I'll give you a hint: "pirate" is meant to sound like "pile of".)
I was prepared to say that this is my least favorite BNL album, and certainly it's the one I've listened to the least, but... each time I do listen to it, some subtlety, some previously undiscovered nuance, some secret meaning jumps out at me and blows me away.
It first happened when I realized that "Straw Hat and Old Dirty Hank," a bouncy little tune, was actually about a stalker hunting down the object of his obsession. Much deeper and disturbing than I had guessed. Cool! Then I realized "I Live With It Every Day" was about a man haunted by a friend he had (accidentally?) killed when he was a child. Pretty obvious, but I had never really listened to the lyrics. Then -- hey, "Call Me Calmly" is actually a hooker talking to a john! How clever is that? "When I Fall" (which I think is the most beautiful song ever from BNL) is about a window washer! And (this one took the longest to register) "Just a Toy" -- it's about a lifeless puppet in Gepetto's workshop, fiercely jealous of all the affection the living Pinocchio is getting! ("Look at his face, somewhat like mine/But look at his nose, you can always be sure that he's lying... I call him liar, you call him son/If I could move, I'd set him on fire and I'd run.") That one still amazes me. What level is your brain working on to come up with a song like that?
A lot of people call this the best BNL album -- mostly because, I think, it was the first one those people had ever heard. "Shoe Box" was played on Friends and appeared on the Friends soundtrack, "The Old Apartment" had a video directed by Jason Priestly, BNL showed up on Beverly Hills 90210 to sing it... and suddenly people everywhere were on the BNL bandwagon.
I'm not saying they're wrong for liking this album. But it's certainly not the best thing BNL has ever done. While there are a number of stunning tracks here, Pirate Ship is not nearly as fun as Gordon, Maybe You Should Drive, or Stunt, nor nearly as consistent. I don't want to make it sound like I can only appreciate the fun tracks, or that I can't accept darker or more challenging songs from BNL. "Straw Hat," "Just a Toy," and "When I Fall" are different and darker than many other BNL tunes (you always worry that window washer is going to jump), and they're as good as BNL gets. It's just that some of the songs ("Call Me Calmly" or "Same Thing," for example) simply don't come together the way their best work does; they're far more clever in conception than they are enjoyable in their execution.
I do think I'll be listening to this album more often. This may still be my least favorite BNL album... but it's still better than most anything else.
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on July 31, 2000
It's quite possible that "Born On A Pirate Ship" is least among BNL fans because it has this sense of professionalism that "Gordon" and "Maybe You Should Drive" did not. Clearly the songs seem to be edited more precisely and the songs get more to the point instead of having fun and not pointing to one topic in the song. Although this might be one of BNL's more professional releases, it still has some very humorous points to it. The starting track, 'Stomach Vs. Heart,' is a song that deals with the thought of love being able to be digested in the matter minutes. 'Straw Hat And Old Dirty Hank' talks of a farm boy falling in love with a city girl. Despite constant rejection, the farm boy continues to try before finding out that his love is made up of nothing but greed and personal gain. ' I Know' is one of many BNL songs that talks of many ranging issues from Jesus to dating. Although the song is meant to be sung by an old-fashioned father refusing to let his daughter date, the song has some odd funny points. For instance, the part of liking Jesus because of his sandals. 'This Is Where It Ends' is one of many serious songs on BOAPS. 'When I Fall' talks of a high-rise window washer being afraid of heights. An oxymoron itself, the subject is oddly serious and for a single moment, the listener may think the window washer is about to jump. 'I Live With It Everyday' is a song that has no funny points at all. The serious subject talks of the emotions a person carries with him/her for the rest of their life after accidentally killing someone. 'The Old Apartment' is one of few simple songs on BOAPS. This alone probably made it popular, and is a great song. It humorous, entertaining, and simple. 'Break Your Heart' is a song a couple could slow dance to until Steve bursts out and screams parts of the lyrics. 'Spider In My Room' is another funny song that I love! The beginning is great and I love the singing voice! 'Shoebox' is probably the most popular song of BOAPS to fans, and rightly so! The subject is creative, deep, and interesting!
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on July 21, 1998
The first BNL album I ever bought - and I loved it. Not all of it, though; a couple of the tracks seem a little sameish and, while all have lyrics worthy of the Ladies' wit, some of the tracks clearly stand out from the others as great musical pieces.
Stomach Vs. Heart, I Know (the first verse of which reminded me, horror of horrors, of Australia's own Pauline Hanson - "I know why I like you, it's because of your clothing, and your haircut - and 'cos you're rascist"), When I Fall, Spider In My Room and Shoe Box are amongst the classic tracks of this album.
If I Fall stands out particularly as the mellowest track among a collection of more middle-of-the-road rock songs; Stomach Vs. Heart and Shoe Box, with loud beats and joyous thumping choruses, stand out as the opposite. Spider In My Room is a musical joy, combining great lyrics with amazing vocal pieces to make something truly unique. Shoe Box was certainly worthy of an Ep release, although The Old Apart! ment is a puzzle; apparently the hit single from this album, it really is hardly more than an above-average rock effort.
All in all, its a great album, but while none of the tracks are really duds, the half dozen or so which smack you across the ears and writhe into your brain make the other efforts seem a little mediocre by comparison. Still, well worth a listen, and definitely a strongly recommended buy.
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on August 11, 2001
I'm a huge BNL fan. Have been for about 4 years now. I have all six of their CDS. My absolute favorite song of theirs, "Break Your Heart," is on this disc. While it may not be quite as raw as the version on "Rock Spectacle," it's an incredible song and that alone makes the disc worthy of the 5 stars. Whereas some of the songs on here, I feel, are not the best songs by BNL (ie. "Spider in My Room" and "Same Thing") this disc has some absolutely inccredible songs: the aforementioned "Break Your Heart," the sad and touching "When I Fall," the rocking "Old Apartment," the troubling "I Live With It Everyday" and the very cathcy "This Is Where It Ends" For any BNL fan, this disc is worth having. If you're one of those who got into BNL as a result of "Stunt" or "Maroon" and are looking to buy an older CD, first get "Rock Spetacle" and "Gordon" -- then come looking for this and "Maybe You Should Drive" -- not that these are at all bad CDs - the first two just happen to be more consistantly better.
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on February 14, 2005
There are a few albums by Barenaked Ladies that I can listen to at any time. None of them are unworthy of a spin in my CD player but I have to be in the right mood for some of them. Born On a Pirate Ship is that type of album. As I scan over their catalog, I usually go straight to Gordon, Stunt or Greatest Hits, which are the most accessible. However, there are times when I need to remind myself that they have other well crafted albums, even if they aren't as solid all the way through.

This is a band that changes it sound within an album so they don't need to completely veer off their expected course when they put out a new album. BoaPS meanders about and has some really well done songs that have withstood the test of time. The Old Apartment, Shoe Box, and This Is Where It Ends are obvious fan favorites. I come back to this album for those songs plus ones like Straw Hat and Dirty Old Hank and Spider In My Room for their trademark BNL sound and witty lyrics and Same Thing for the 'sentimental' side of the band. Some of the songs go by without me taking much notice which is neither good nor bad. They just don't make much of an impression.

When amassing their albums this is probably one of the last ones a fan would pick up but definitely not one that should be overlooked.
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on December 13, 1999
My first true exposure to BNL came via this album, which remains quite good several years later. Obviously more "adult-oriented" than their previous work, it contains several great tracks - "Shoe Box" (which sounds even better in the "radio remix version"), "Straw Hat & Old Dirty Hank" (a happy song about an unhealthy obsession), and "When I Fall" are my favorites, plus bonus points for making "Same Thing" work, even though it shouldn't on paper. That said, the album can sound rather samey all the way through, and although there's nothing inherently wrong with them, several tracks just don't rate ("Stomach vs Heart" and "Spider in My Room"). A few more truly catchy numbers would have helped, too. Still, a worthwhile album.
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on May 12, 2000
BNL is my favorite band, and although this is my least favorite album, it is only because when you get goofy like me and rate all this stuff, something always has to be at the bottom. Still, this is a great collection of the Ladies' songs. My favorites are "Break Your Heart" where the character in the song is trying to end a relationship without feeling the guilt that always comes with being the breaker-upper. "I Live With It Every Day" is something to behold as it changes styles without breaking the mood of the piece. "Straw Hat And Old Dirty Hank" is probably my favorite because of the definitely creepy subject matter. This is a great album, but purchase "Stunt" or "Gordon" first to see if this is the band for you.
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on October 24, 1999
The first time I listened to BOAPS I was totally blown away! This is BNL at it's best, folks! Once again, their mix of humour and music stands in a class of it's own. They even make seemingly serious songs funny! For instance, the first time I heard When I Fall I thought it was a love song and then I found out it was a song about a window washer! This album also shocases the talents of the entire band and not just the lead singers Steve and Ed (even though they too are awsome). In BOAPS, Tyler, Jim and newcomer Kevin take center stage at some point in the CD and give a top-notch performance, proving that BNL just might be the greatest band in the world!!!!!! The best songs on this CD are Shoe Box (the greatest!I mean, come on, it's SHOE BOX!!!), Break Your Heart (Quite possibly the best love song ever written), Spider in My Room ( a freaky and totally cool song where my MAN Jim does lead vocals!) and The Old Apartment (GREAT rock song that makes you wanna throw stuff around and trash your house too!) If you are a new BNL fan or just somebody who likes good music then get this CD! You will love it!!!!
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on September 16, 2003
The Barenaked Ladies have a clever style. Super vocal harmonies and snappy arrangements highlight many of their recordings. Whereas Born On A Pirate Ship is certainly strong in the above mentioned categories, the songs are truly hit and miss.
The Old Apartment, Break Your Heart, and Shoebox are clearly the highlights of this CD. Love the steady rock beat of Apartment and Break Your Heart features an outstanding lead vocal by Stephen Paige. Shoebox is a jolly pop tune with fine harmonies.
However, the remaining other songs are either OK or really nothing too special. In The Drink is a little interesting but does drag on a little too long. Oh yes the arrangements are quite clever but the melody on Spider In My Room is fairly unmemorable and even annoying. Same Thing is oh so bland. Other songs like Stomache vs Heart sound like inferior versions of better tunes by this band.
Truthfully, purchase Stunt, then Maroon or even Rock Spectacle but you can certainly live without Born On A Pirate Ship.
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on August 22, 2005
It had to happen sooner or later...the genius of GORDON and the solid artistry of MAYBE YOU SHOULD DRIVE give way to this less stellar effort. For the first time, I find myself thinking of tracks by them as "bad" rather than merely middling.

"When I Fall" is the tale of a skyscraper window washer who toys with jumping because of his role's futility. ("I look like a painter, behind all the grease/But painting's creating, and I'm just erasing") "The Old Apartment" is vandalism as nostalgia ("Broke into the old apartment/This is where we used to live") In "Break Your Heart", Page allows his paramour to think everything's fine rather than rock the boat of the relationship. ("Why must I always speak in terms of cowardice?/When I guess I should have just come out and told you right from the start/Why must I always tell you all I want is this?/I guess 'cause I didn't want to break your heart" NOTE:The definitive version of this song is the live one on ROCK SPECTACLE.) "Shoe Box" is a container for mistruths. ("From my first little fib, when I still wore a bib/To my latest attempt at pretending I'm someone who's not 17/Doesn't know what you mean when talk turns to single malts or stilton..")

"Spider in My Room" sounds like a Talking Heads reject. "Just a Toy" makes use of an irritating processed vocal that causes Steven Paige to sound as though he's singing via megaphone. If you think the lyric "I have a secret that just won't keep/All I wanna do is brush your teeth" is fabulous, then you can have Creegan's "In the Drink".

If you're new to the band, don't start here. (ROCK SPECTACLE's the best one for newbies, then GORDON.) This one's for "true believers" only...
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